HBO’s “Succession” is a gold mine of cutting quotes and humiliating insults. Nobody is safe, and everybody has a weapons cache of cutting remarks up their sleeves.
Jesse Armstrong’s series, which launches its highly anticipated Season 3 on Oct. 17, won back-to-back Emmys for drama writing in 2019 and 2020, and it won drama series in 2020. The highly lauded show follows the mega-rich exploits of the Roy family members, who help run the global media empire Waystar RoyCo and are based on the real-life Murdochs, Disneys and more.
The cast includes Brian Cox as Logan Roy, the ailing patriarch who refuses to give up his founding role; Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy, the power-hungry next-in-line to his father’s throne; Sarah Snook as Shiv Roy, the lone daughter who has political experience and her father’s cunning; Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy, the vulgar, loud-mouthed son who doesn’t take things seriously; and Alan Ruck as Connor Roy, the eldest Roy sibling who has delusions of grandeur and dreams of being president. Along for the power-grabbing ride are Shiv’s husband Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen); tall and awkward cousin Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun) who is Tom’s punching bag; general counsel Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron) who has a pseudo-sexual relationship with Roman; and many more memorable characters.
Nearly every scene has witty and clever dialogue, but here are some of the best insults from the show listed below.
'Do YOU want to call your dad?'
Season 1, Episode 1 (“Celebration”)
Kendall puts an assistant in his place when the well-meaning employee asks if Kendall wants to call his dad for advice on negotiating with Vaulter on the company’s acquisition. Kendall looks taken aback while he’s questioning his own business tactics, then swiftly and sarcastically replies, “Do I want to call my dad? No, I don’t want to call my dad. Do you want to call your dad?” He looks around at the team of businessmen, “Does anybody want to call their dad? OK, nobody wants to talk to their fuckin’ dad.”
'What's that, 'Date Rape' by Calvin Klein?'
Season 1, Episode 1 (“Celebration”)
Shiv sticks it to Roman at their father’s birthday party, as their very first words to each other in the show have sharp barbs. Roman asks if Shiv’s job in politics is still “boring the living shit” out of her and says she “looks like an actual human person.” After giving her brother a hug and smelling his cologne, Shiv asks if it’s “‘Date Rape’ by Calvin Klein.” However, Roman may have gotten the last laugh, responding, “Yeah, you wish,” to a very confused Shiv and her soon-to-be fiancé Tom.
'I think [Logan] meant to say he wished mom gave birth to a can opener, because at least then it would be useful'
Season 1, Episode 2 (“Shitshow at the Fuck Factory”)
Several feet away from their father laying in a hospital bed, the Roy siblings argue about who should run the company in place of Logan while he’s unfit. Roman rubs salt in Kendall’s wound and ego after Logan tells his elder son it would be a few years longer before he could be CEO. Roman loves to cross the line, and he even looks at Shiv and wonders if comparing Kendall to a can opener went a bit too far.
'The butter is too cold! The butter's all fucked! You're fuckwads and you fucked it! There's dinner rolls ripping out there as we speak!'
Season 1, Episode 4 (“Sad Sack Wasp Trap”)
At the Roy Endowment Creative New York gala, Connor gets a little too carried away with making sure every detail of the ceremony is perfect, berating the kitchen staff when he realizes the butter is too cold and not spreadable (which nobody but him notices). He erupts with fury in the blink of an eye, firing every cook in the kitchen, only to pull a 180 and praise everyone when the night is over.
'Put my fuckin' wine back now. Put it the fuck back. Don't make a fuckin' mess'
Season 1, Episode 10 (“Nobody Is Ever Missing”)
Tom unleashes his dark side at the reception of his and Shiv’s wedding after Shiv confesses she’d been having an affair with political strategist Nate (Ashley Zuckerman). Things turn awkward when Tom confronts Nate at the party and orders him to leave immediately, but Nate makes the mistake of trying to finish his glass of wine before he exits. Tom forces him to pour the wine back into the bottle, dribbling it all over himself and the floor in an act of revenge and humiliation.
'You pusillanimous piece of fucking fool's gold'
Season 2, Episode 1 (“The Summer Palace”)
Face to face with Kendall for the first time since he reversed his stance on a hostile takeover seemingly at random, Stewy (Arian Moayed) is beside himself with rage and needs his former business partner to know it. As Kendall, now a shell of himself, looks limply on, Stewy spits such a perfectly ridiculous, cutting line at him that it remains one of the show’s most memorable. “Fuck you, too, you pusillanimous piece of fucking fool’s gold — fucking, silver spoon asshole,” he seethes. It’s both a beautiful piece of wording and a believably messy one as Stewy devolves, too angry to form a fully-formed sentence.
'That's about as choreographed as a dog getting fucked on roller skates'
Season 2, Episode 3 (“Hunting”)
Logan’s not exactly at his “best” in “Hunting,” a uniquely dramatic “Succession” episode that sees him humiliating his employees in a haunting game of “boar on the floor.” At the very least, though, a paranoid and unstable Logan usually yields some of the character’s best and most pointed lines. As Logan struggles to control his bid to buy out a rival news company, he exhales in absolute frustration at the news of a potential leak. “This was supposed to be choreographed,” he barks at his hangdog lieutenant Karl (David Rasche). “That’s about as choreographed as a dog getting fucked on roller skates!”
Graphic? Check. Bordering on nonsensical? Check. Uncomfortably visceral? Check. All the hallmarks of a grade-A Logan Roy insult, wrapped in one illustrative sentence that proves hard to shake.
'You little slime puppy'
Season 2, Episode 4 (“Safe Room”)
No list of “Succession” insults would be complete without this game-changing line. After establishing a working relationship that runs on flirty, poison barbs, Roman and Gerri take their insult game to the next level as Roman quite literally gets off on Gerri cutting him down to size over the phone. “You’re just a revolting little worm, aren’t you?” Gerri says with a Cheshire cat smile, her face lighting up with disbelief and — despite herself — excitement as Roman audibly unzips his pants on the other end of the line. Then, in a moment of genius improv, she goes for the jugular: “You little slime puppy.” Does it make complete sense? Nah. Does it have to in order to be memorable? Absolutely not. From this moment on, Gerri has Roman right in the palm of her hand, right where she needs (and dare we say, wants?) him.
'This is why you don't hatch a plan with Connor, the first fucking pancake'
Season 2, Episode 8 (“Dundee”)
When Shiv gets a good insult in, it’s like…well, a shiv: quick, precise, and deadly. She also seems to reserve the worst for her own siblings, as seen with this jawdropper of a line aimed at Connor. The second Connor expresses an affinity for Rhea (Holly Hunter), the shark of a businesswoman who recently set Shiv up for a spectacular humiliation in front of her father, Shiv goes in for the kill. “Well, this is why you don’t hatch a plan with Connor, the first fucking pancake.” Even Connor, typically oblivious, feels the keen sting of this line, which essentially calls him a mistake of a person Logan had to make in order to get it right with his following children.
'The Logan Roy School of Journalism? What's next, the Jack the Ripper Women's Health Clinic?'
Season 2, Episode 10 (“Dundee”)
On “Succession,” nothing is more important than family, and no one is meaner to you than your own family members. And for as slicing as the second generation of Roys can be with each other, they rarely hold a candle to the pure-cut animosity lingering between Logan and his brother Ewan (James Cromwell), who believes Logan has actively made the world a worse place and is rarely shy about saying so to his face. If Logan were capable of paying him a compliment, even he might’ve had to admit that Ewan lands a knockout punch with this killer of a line.